Construction Scheduling. What is a Project Schedule Worth to You?

QuestionMy early construction schedule experience was gained while working on the owner’s side of the project. The issues I was concerned with were simple. Is the contractor on schedule? Will the contractor finish by contract completion? Have I delayed the contractor, and if so by how much?

Pretty basic concerns.

As time went on, and I learned from my many mentors, I found that a project schedule is an indispensable tool for managing the project. What better way to manage resources, project cash flow, spot trends in schedule slippage, and manage change order delay claims.

I now know these three things.

  1. Project planning and schedule development are critical to the usefulness of the project schedule for managing the work. Garbage in / garbage out.
  2. Maintaining the schedule through accurate updates, revisions to reflect the plan going forward, and the timely inclusion of delays or change orders is essential.
  3. There will always be those that resist the use of a CPM schedule and those that believe it is the only tool available.

Where do you fall?

Do you believe the schedule is a necessary tool for payment or to meet the contract requirements?

Do you believe the schedule helps with managing the work and projecting your plan going forward?

Do you believe that adherence to the baseline schedule is paramount and no revisions or deviations from this plan are acceptable?

What value do you place on the project schedule?

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Scheduling Consultants. What will Scheduling Consultants Need from an Owner to Successfully Provide Schedule Support Services?

Schedule Practices
Schedule Practices

Now that you’ve engaged your planning and schedule professional, what will you need to provide this consultant for them to be able to successfully provide the schedule support services you need?

Before any schedule review can begin…..

First, they need to understand the project. To do this, they need to learn the basic scope of the project. They will need the IFB or RFP docs with addendums, the successful contractor’s proposal, the award documents (if the contract is already awarded), your reporting requirements or preferences, and a list of stakeholders.

They need to understand what the schedule requirements are for your specific project. (Hopefully, you require a critical path method (CPM) schedule with specific activity coding, calendar, schedule and calculation requirements). The schedule consultant needs to know what the successful contractor proposed and any exceptions they may have included. The schedule consultant needs to know what your reporting preferences are, in addition to whatever requirements you have provided. The schedule consultant needs to know who the project stakeholders are and how you want their reporting formatted, or if you want stakeholders getting reports directly from any scheduling consultants at all.

All planning and scheduling consultants must develop a basic idea of the project work breakdown structure (WBS) and organizational breakdown structure (OBS) the contractor will likely develop. This is basically an organized list of the project deliverables broken down into work packages and a list of individuals or companies from which to assign a responsible party for each package. This is necessary for the review of the contractor’s schedule development and validation that the entire project scope is included by the contractor.

Baseline Schedule Development….

The contractor will develop a preliminary or baseline schedule, (depending on the contract requirements…), and submit for your review. This needs to be forwarded to the schedule consultant immediately. Scheduling  consultants will review the WBS & OBS for completeness and organization. Scheduling consultants will then verify calendars have been set up and assigned. They will review resource and cost loading, (If these required by the contract). They will verify schedule and calculation settings meet the contract requirements. They will review several schedule metrics and develop review comments. Scheduling consultants will verify required milestones are included and review the use of activity constraints. Scheduling consultants will review the proposed work sequence for reasonableness. They will review activity durations for reasonableness and note anomalies. Scheduling consultants will verify the schedule period of performance meets the contract requirements. They will then create reports and review comments for your use.

The baseline development process may require a couple of passes to get to an acceptable project baseline schedule. Once this is completed, the schedule consultant will set up schedule performance metrics to use for measuring the contractor’s progress against the baseline and subsequent accepted schedule updates.

This will provide you with a project baseline schedule, (and hopefully it is a CPM baseline schedule), based on the contractor’s plan to execute the project, of which you can have confidence in. You can use this schedule with a high degree of confidence, (If you have a CPM schedule).

Managing Updates, revisions, change orders and recovery schedules…

The planning and schedule professional will be able to review periodic schedule updates provided by the contractor and compare the progress against the baseline schedule or the most recently accepted update and identify delays in the contractors work and trends in work areas which could potentially delay work at a later date. They will do so by comparing the performance for the current period schedule update against the previously accepted schedule update and the baseline schedule and then analyzing changes the contractor makes to the schedule update. This is much easier if the contractor updates the schedule in a two-part process. First the contractor updates the progress only, with no revisions, and submits for review. This schedule will most likely include out-of-sequence work and total float values which are not acceptable. That’s fine, we only want to see what updating the progress did. Now the contractor can make schedule revisions as necessary to correct out-of-sequence work and model their plan to complete the remaining scheduled work. This is the schedule they will submit, and you will accept based on the review and comments of the schedule consultant.

If you need to make changes or additions to the contract, you will, of course, request pricing from the contractor and negotiate this additional work or change in scope. The contractor should also be including a request for additional contract time to incorporate this additional work or change in scope. Or they should be stating that no time extension is needed or requested. Prior to sending the contractor your request for change pricing, you should have your schedule consultant review the change and the potential impact to the currently accepted schedule. This involves the schedule consultant creating a “fragnet” or subnet of schedule activities to model the change order work and inserting it into the most recently accepted schedule to analyze the impact to this schedule. (This is the same as having an owner’s independent estimate completed prior to receiving the change order proposal from the contractor). The schedule consultant will then compare the contractors request for time to the estimate created and develop a contemporaneous Time Impact Analysis. This is the best way to manage potential time extension claims. Address them now and get them negotiated as part of the current change order. The schedule consultant will review the contractor’s “fragnet” for reasonableness and report on the impact to the project’s current critical path. This is what determines the change in contract duration, (if you have a CPM schedule).

If your contractor falls behind in their progress, based on the most current accepted schedule, you will most likely require them to develop and submit a recovery schedule. This schedule will need to be reviewed by your schedule consultant and also be accompanied by a narrative defining how the contractor plans to implement the recovery. Be it through additional work hours, an increase in resources, and prefabrication of assemblies…… The schedule consultant will look at the plan for recovery and compare proposed durations against historical project performance and production rates and verify the plan meets the required finish date. You will want to be involved in this review. If it cannot be determined that the contractor can actually implement the plan for recovery or the contractor’s plan is just not reasonable, there needs to be a discussion with the contractor. Your schedule consultant can provide this analysis and reporting to support your discussion.

Summary

The owner absolutely needs a planning and schedule professional on their team to act as their advocate for the project schedule development and management. Not using professional planning and scheduling consultants  is kind of like just accepting any price proposal the contractor provides with a change order request or any periodic invoice amount the contractor submits without any verification of validity by a competent team member. You would not follow a process like that for cost management. Unless you have a competent team member to validate all schedule actions, you’re not really managing your project schedule…..

I realize this is a simplistic view of the entire schedule oversight process. This is intended for use by small CMa’s and owners that do not have a planning and schedule professional on their team or completely understand the necessity of CPM schedule and professional schedule oversight.

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about basic schedule concepts.

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling Services. What will the Schedule Consultant Need from the General Contractor to Successfully Provide CPM Schedule Support Services?

Now that you’ve engaged your planning and CPM schedule professional, what will you need to provide this consultant for them to be able to successfully provide the construction CPM scheduling services you need?

The easy part….

First, they need to plan the basic schedule and sequencing of major work. To do this, they need to learn the basic scope of the project. They will need the IFB or RFP docs with addendums, your proposal docs, and a list of stakeholders. They need to understand what the schedule structure and quality requirements are for your specific project. Are there required milestones? What is the contract duration? Are there any interim milestones that may need to be constrained? Are specific calendars required? Is resource and cost loading required? Are there specific activity code requirements? The requirements vary greatly, and the scheduler has to start out with this information.

The planning and CPM schedule professional will develop a basic project work breakdown structure (WBS) and organizational breakdown structure (OBS). This is basically an organized list of the project deliverables broken down into work packages and a list of individuals or companies from which to assign a responsible party for each package. This is the basis for any resource assignments or responsibility activity code assignments.

You will need to work closely with the schedule consultant to assure the entire project scope is included in the WBS and all the stakeholders are included in the OBS. You can provide the sequencing of the work packages at this point. This will help with the activity logic developed later. This also a good time to assign any costs to the work packages. This can be distributed to the supporting activities once they’re developed.

At this point, you have a list of deliverables with the parties responsible for their delivery. Now it is time to add supporting activities.

Now for the hard part!

The planning and CPM schedule professional will be able to build out most of the supporting activities. But they will need continuous open communication with your project team to get the sequencing correct. A good schedule consultant can develop most of the hard logic, such as “develop submittal package-submit submittal package-review submittal package-approve submittal package” or “foundation before SOG before above slab work”. But there is also preferential logic that reflects the project team’s plan to execute the project. This must be provided by the project team. Remember, the planning and CPM schedule professional only models the execution plan. The plan is yours to communicate to the schedule consultant.

Note: If activity coding has not been assigned yet, now is the time. It is best to add the activity coding when developing the activities. It is useful for filtering and sorting the schedule for the “crashing” exercise.

Once all the activities and relationships are in place to support the work packages, you will need to work with the schedule consultant to help develop the activity durations and distribute work package costs across the activities, (if cost loading is required or desired). It is best if this information comes from the responsible parties. They also need to understand the logic for the work assigned to them and agree to the plan.

Now you have a schedule with all the work package deliverables, all the activities to support the work packages, and all the activity relationships and durations assigned to sequence the work as planned.

Now for the painful part!

Constraints have probably not been assigned yet. (I do not assign them until I’ve developed the full schedule). So, most likely, the finish date for the project schedule will not fall where you need it to. This is when you must sit down with the project team and the planning and schedule professional and work through the sequencing and durations to “crash” the schedule until the project duration meets the contract requirements. It is vital the responsible parties are involved in any reduction of duration or resequencing of work. You need them to “buy into” the finished plan.

Now is the time to analyze the schedule and prepare it for use and submission to the owner. Once approved, this schedule becomes the project baseline schedule. You will measure all progress against this schedule and track trends and slippage.  You now have a validated CPM schedule you can rely on to manage your project.

This is your critical path method, CPM schedule!

As you can see, you have a lot of input into the schedule development. You have a lot of responsibility too. Hiring a planning and CPM schedule professional is not a hire and forget it process. You will work closely with this consultant, so you need to trust them and be comfortable working with them.

If you utilize the planning and CPM schedule professional for the development of your project schedule, (as part of their construction scheduling services) you will start the project with a measurable project plan you can use to manage the execution of the project. This will allow you to spot problems early and develop the most efficient mitigation strategies.

Now all you have to do is follow the plan, update the progress periodically, and make adjustments to the remaining plan based on the actual progress each period. But this is another topic.

I have generalized the development process above for use by small to medium-sized general contractors without the planning and schedule resources in-house to develop and maintain project CPM schedules. There is much more which can be said about the process and there is also additional schedule risk analysis which can be utilized to identify schedule risk based on probability and more detailed labor, material & equipment loading to measure productivity rates and project shortfalls or trends. These are also topics for another day.

I’m sure many of you have comments or additional insight into this subject. Please share!

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. What do Small Contractors really want from CPM Schedule Consultants?

Many smaller general contractors do not need, nor can they afford a full-time planner or CPM scheduler on their staff. They seldom choose to use professional planning and CPM schedule consultants. But if they did, what do they really need from scheduling consultants? Continue reading “Construction Scheduling. What do Small Contractors really want from CPM Schedule Consultants?”